Repurpose, Redirect & Reimagine Resources to Contain COVID-19

Solutions Journalism Network

This collection is adapted from the SolutionsU Pro Innovation in Action series on COVID-19. The series seeks to highlight some of the most powerful social change strategies being used around the world today in response to the global pandemic. Each collection highlights a social change "trimtab" based on Buckminster Fuller's metaphor to explain the power of a single individual to effect significant change. Fuller realized that the trim tab on a large ship’s rudder—really just a sliver of the whole rudder—induced the leverage that moved the entire rudder and thus turned an enormous ship. He applied this idea to individuals, whose small actions can in turn induce larger changes, and ultimately, significant social change and problem solving. 

The three stories in this collection (see below) are about containing and mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Each story demonstrates the innovation trimtab "redirecting, reimagining, and repurposing." When confronted with the challenge of extreme limitation, the individuals in these stories avoided myopic thinking and looked at already existing human and physical resources  through a new lens. 

Read about how women across the country are redirecting individuals with hobby and professional sewing skills to make protective masks. In the words of Denise Voss, the head of the Inland Empire chapter of the American Sewing Guild “Sewers, we’ve always stepped up and done this thing … We’re made for this time. We’re happy to stay home and sew. And we all have stashes of fabric.” Even those who don’t sew are helping, such as the architect in New York who is organizing the distribution of the homemade masks. In the second story, learn how European countries are following the lead of some Asian countries in reimagining how to use smartphones and drones for contact tracing, and the potential privacy concerns associated with these efforts. Finally, read about how a multitude of spirits distillers are repurposing equipment—and their large supplies of ethanol—to manufacture hand sanitizer. 

Click here for the original collection curated by Greg VanKirk. 

Click here for more teaching collections on COVID-19.

Photo Credit: Scott Hansen, PSNS & IMF photographer